* Well, I read this article
the other day. I thought it was interesting, but I have to admit that I was enraged by the article at first, mainly because they managed to lump Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer
) in with the rest of the "television auteurs," who have met with mixed sucesses (rating and critical). The second time I read it, I thought that the author made some cogent points about television auteurs getting a lot of their mediocre shows on the air instead of the work of newcomers (personally, I would love if David E. Kelley would never, ever produce a new show, and I found it gratifying that his new show girls club
was cancelled after two episodes). Of course, a lot of newcomers must produce a lot of crap too, because I only know a small fraction of TV show creators, and they aren't responible for everything. I think the point in the essay where the author lost me is when she wrote:
The best argument against an auteur-dominated landscape lies in the ratings for two networks: CBS and The WB.
(1) I think that the author conflates rating sucess with quality too easily; (2) CBS maybe the highest rated network, but I personally think the quality of it's shoes leave something to be desired, most of which are mediocre at best, bland, sentimental, and stylistically conservative. Really, when was the last time the words "ground-breaking" was ever uttered in the same sentence with CBS (uh, Touched by an Angel
and Baby Bob
? If it wasn't for Letterman, the news, and football, I would never even watch CBS. Personally, I think there only good show is Everybody Loves Raymond
, and then CSI
(which I find repetitive after a few episodes); there only other "edgy" show, Becker
has been neutered. (3) The WB may not be dependent on auteurs as much as in the past, but at one point, the majority of notable WB shows were produced by Aaron Spelling, JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, and Kevin Williams. How long before the WB starts selling there current crop intoning the words "From the Creators of...." which is how most auteur shows are sold; the author of this article fails to make the point that most television auteurs are not that well known to the general public. Only critics and the cultish fan base really is familiar with a television creator. A couple of other quick points: television auteurs are not new, contrary to what this writer seems to think. Anyone remember Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, or Norman Lear? And why the focus on dramatic shows? Sitcoms seemed to be produced by the same perennial crop of writers and producers.
I've probably focused more on this article than necessary because all of the shows, except for one (Scrubs
), that I regularly watch are the products of auteurs: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, and The Simpsons
*And while we are on the subject, can someone besides me watch the low-rated, but excellent Firefly
, the new science-fiction/Western from Joss Whedon? Besides a certain sense of humor and sensibility, it has little to do with Joss Whedon's other shows, which is bad for FOX, which pretty much sold it on that fact that it was from the "Creator of...." as if the same audience would automatically cross-over. Actually, I think I respond to Firefly
so much because I have an affinity for Westerns (one of my favorite episodes was a riff on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
, which was written by Ben Edlund, the creator of The Tick
) and there are a lot of Western influences, from the six-shooters (though if you listen to the sound design, they've altered the sound effects slightly when it comes to the bullet sounds), to the style of dress, ominpresence of horses, and the manner of speech ("I reckon," "ain't," etc., etc.) Mostly, it's because Whedon is constructing a very interesting world of the future, not only is not a utopia (thank God), it's definitely more multicultural (not to mention for scientically accurate, i.e there is no sound in space; funnier; and action packed) then Star Trek
ever was or probably will be: characters periodically break into Chinese, a hover train is full of commandos out of Starship Troopers
, but also cowboys and a woman in a burqa, and the music, while borrowing from traditional American country and folk sources, also displays Aboriginal, Arabic, Celtic, and Asian influences.
It's just unforunate that FOX has assigned the show the timeslot of the damned, the graveyard of genre shows; not to mention the fact that they are showing the episodes out of sequence, which makes it harder to build continuity (they also shelved the two hour pilot, which will be shown in December). I need more people to watch the show. I've already had one of my favorites cancelled this year, Once and Again
, and it increasingly looks like this will be the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Season 3 comes out on DVD on January 7th).
*The new issue of Cineaste
(the link can be found in the sidebar, or you can click here
; however the web edition usually only has one article and one review available at one time, and they still have the old issue up on the website) features what is probably the most extensive interview in English with Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. Cineaste
is a journal of left-wing politics and film art; it consistently features excellent interviews, articles, and reviews. I highly recommend it.